San Diego's hidden gem courses | California Golf

San Diego's sleepers and beyond: golf courses off the beaten path

SAN DIEGO -- Even if you're not from San Diego, you've probably heard of Torrey Pines, La Costa and maybe even Maderas.

Those are three of the most high-profile golf facilities in the San Diego area, but there are plenty of other options, some that seem to fly under the radar or are out of the way, that are worth checking out, too.

The best part is that they're often bargains. Here's a few you might want to consider on your next San Diego golf vacation:

Golf up the coast

You may think coastal golf is expensive, and generally that is correct, but there are some lesser known golf courses in the San Diego area that are in good shape, offer ocean views and can be played for a fraction of the price of the more expensive resorts in the area.

Two you might want to check out are a couple of Cary Bickler designs just north of San Diego. Encinitas Ranch, a municipal course in Encinitas, is quite a treat. Not only can you see the Pacific Ocean, but the course is in terrific shape, interesting and a good challenge for players of all level. In Chula Vista, you'll find Salt Creek Golf Club, also designed by Bickler with John Cook, has a links sort of feel with deep bunkers, elevated tees and a windswept look that goes along with the generally windy conditions. Most recently, the clubhouse got an update.

Closer to downtown you'll find Coronado Golf Course, another municipal situated under the Coronado Bridge. The locals certainly know about Coronado, with its great sailboat and city views, but often overlooked is a great little par 3 not too far away: Sail Ho.

The great thing about Sail Ho, which is right next to San Diego's Charles Lindbergh Airport, is its history. It was built by A G. Spalding of Spalding Sports back to the 1920s on the north end of Liberty Station. Sam Snead, when he was in the Navy, used to be the head pro there. It's just a thousand yards long, but there are plenty of great green complexes, bunkers and views of the sea and the city.

Short courses and inland

Speaking of short courses, visitors should also consider a couple of other executive courses. One is Reidey Creek Golf Course in Escondido and the other is the Ted Robinson Sr.-designed, 27-hole Oaks North Golf Course in the north part of San Diego.

Over in Bonita, one course that often gets overlooked is a classic William F. Bell design, Bonita Golf Club, which is usually in pretty good shape and a bargain to play (under $50). Bell is the same guy who designed Torrey Pines, by the way.

If you're looking for a little newer course, check out The Vineyard in Escondido. Opened in 1993, this north San Diego County course borders the award-winning boutique Orfila Vineyard and Winery in the San Pasqual Valley agricultural preserve.

And finally, if you don't mind driving out to Ramona northeast of San Diego, check out Mt. Woodson Golf Club. It has elevated tees, lakes, ponds, unusual bunkering, quirky greens, and a 500-foot wooden cart bridge that spans two holes. This Lee Schmidt-Brian Curley design is less than 6,000 yards, but it's anything but easy. And for a bonus, visitors will also want to see Mt. Woodson Castle behind the clubhouse.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
Commented on

Encinitas is quite easy but fun. Reidy Creek wasn’t in the best condition the last time I was there. Oak North was good with a decent practice range. The Vineyard, last time I was there the green was a bit slow. Mr. Woodson is quite short but over all very fun.

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San Diego's sleepers and beyond: golf courses off the beaten path